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Ehrlich's address too fuzzy for comfort

February 04, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

First of all, Gov. Bob Ehrlich never, ever makes this speech on the floor of his old haunt, the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

His inaugural State of the State address last week focused on the environment, kids' education, mental health, senior care and help for the disabled.

Governor. Bobby. What were your thinking? Mental health? You're a Republican, for crying out loud. Where's the cruelty?

I want to hear about punching out grandmothers, gutting school lunch programs, revising hangings, all those things that Mother Jones magazine tells us the Republicans stand for.

Instead we get this - this fluff, this warm-and-fuzzarama, this tedious Olympics-like human interest story, stick your finger down your throat and retchfest.

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Come on Bob, you're the first Republican governor in Maryland since the cotton gin. We want red meat, not a red scare. Don't tell us how you're going to work for the communal good, tell us how you're going to crush people like bugs.

Where was the call to dissolve the state school board or enact tax breaks for polluters? Where's the Monty Burns mantra: "Family! Friends! Religion! These are the demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business."

Oh, I guess it's no use. I blame the United States presidency. I don't remember which chief executive it was who started putting "real people" in the balconies and relating their hardscrabble stories to a bored nation - but if I could, I'd go to his presidential library and run all his books through a wood chipper.

Ehrlich's entire speech concentrated on cooperation and progress, two things I hate. He started by praising lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, saying, "Neither party has a monopoly on talent in this legislature."

Well, he's right about that. Were I his speech writer, I would have shortened the draft by cutting out the words "a monopoly on."

He welcomed the long-serving lawmakers in the General Assembly, including: "Del. Wade Kach: 28 years of service. Del. Joe Vallario: 28 years of service. Del. Hattie N. Harrison: 30 years of service. Del. John Arnick: 31 years of service. Del. Pauline Menes: 36 years of service. Sen. Norman Stone: 40 years of service. Senate President Mike Miller: 32 years of service."

Hey, our own Sen. Don Munson has been there 28 years and he didn't get a mention? What's he, chopped liver?

Ehrlich then proceeded to trot out every down-on-their-luck, hit-bottom-but-rebounding-nicely-thank-you story within 400 miles of the capital. The only thing that saved the Pennsylvania coal miners from being paraded down the aisle was the state line.

Grudgingly, I would agree with the governor's assessment that the most downtrodden and defenseless among us should be the recipients of aid - but heavens to Betsy, do we really need to SEE them?

I am perfectly convinced of their existence through Census data and government statistics. Please, this is a State of the State address, not some weepy feature in Reader's Digest.

We don't want our executive up on the dais saying, "Edna here was down to her last box of Kraft macaroni and cheese to feed her 47 children who are all wheelchair-bound and she had to sell her cats for medical experiments to support her crack habit, when all of a sudden she enrolled in community college, worked her way through law school, got a job and now she owns and operates the Eli Lilly Laboratories Corp."

Republicans think they won this election? Hmph. I'm telling you, nothing good can come of it when you begin treating a human being as anything but a number.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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